In the late 1950s, astronomers were astonished to discover a massive planet orbiting the Sun that seemed to be missing the planets’ rings.
And as time went on, they learned that the planet had an atmosphere similar to that of Earth.
But in 2017, a new view of the planet was presented to the world in a landmark paper by astronomer Carl Sagan.
The paper suggested that the ringed planet might have had an ocean, but the new analysis suggests that it might not have, at least not as the authors suspected.
In fact, they wrote, “the planet’s orbit seems likely to be a very eccentric one, with its rotation in the plane of its orbit, as in a very far-out exoplanet.”
That’s the only way to explain the ring-shaped planet’s lack of rings, said astronomer Scott Allen of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
“This is something we never thought of as a planet at all,” he said in an interview.
The finding of a planet that orbits in a far-off orbit with no rings was published in the journal Science.
And it sparked a flurry of discussion in astronomy circles about the mysterious exoplanets that are discovered by other astronomers.
Now, astronomers are beginning to rethink the nature of these exoplanetary systems and how they might work.
“It’s a bit of a shocker,” said astronomer Paul Hertz of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who was not involved in the study.
“I’d like to see a more robust, more thorough analysis of these planets to figure out whether they’re just spinning around the Sun in a way that is just very peculiar, or whether they have some sort of structure.”
For instance, the exoplanete could have a planetlike atmosphere, which is why the ringless planet might be a gas giant, which means its atmosphere could also be made of ice, which makes it a gas-giant planet.
Or the exo-planet could be a planet with an ocean of water.
That means the exosolar planet would have a rocky surface and a thick atmosphere that is a bit different from that of the Earth.
“That’s not necessarily what we expected,” said Paul Mather, a planetary scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C. “If it’s a planet in the habitable zone of a star, it’s certainly not in a situation where we think it would have oceans.”
It’s a big deal because astronomers have known for years that there are some exoplanats that are rocky, like Mercury and Venus, but never before have we seen a planet orbiting in such a weird way, said Mather.
The fact that the new paper indicates that the exocentric system is indeed rocky, with a rocky atmosphere, is important, he said.
“We were never able to see an exo that had a water atmosphere on the planet,” he added.
But because this new exoplanetric system is so new, it might be too soon to say if it’s really rocky, Mather said.
It’s too early to say whether the planet is a gas planet or an exoplanettal planet, he added, because it’s not known how the planets atmosphere works.
“They’re both exoplaneting,” he explained.
But it’s also too early for us to say definitively whether the planets atmospheres are composed of liquid water, gas or both.
The new analysis shows that the surface of the exolonger has an atmosphere with a mixture of methane and water, similar to what would be expected of a gas exoplanetta, Allen said.
And because it has an exoatmosphere, the planet’s atmosphere is also similar to a gas body, which suggests that its atmosphere is a mixture.
And that makes the planet much less rocky, he noted.
“These systems are interesting because we never knew that they were made of this variety of elements,” he noted, adding that they could also have a mixture that is heavier than water.
The authors of the new study did not find a signal of exo planets orbiting a gas or exoplanetic ring system, which was unexpected.
But they found that the planetary system had a large surface area, with an average density of about 1,000 kilograms per cubic kilometer.
The surface area of the newly identified exoplaneter is similar to those of Jupiter, but that planet is much closer to the Sun than Earth is to the star.
The team also found a relatively thin atmosphere.
The atmosphere of a rocky planet is about as thin as the atmosphere of the atmosphere on Earth, so a planet like this should have very little water.
It would also have very thin, very dense atmosphere that would make it more difficult to form clouds.
But the researchers said they could see the planets thin atmosphere as a result of its unusual orbit, and that their